Social Media for Nonprofits came to town last week and really drove home how much of an impact social media has for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. Several Seattle-based nonprofits shared their experiences, giving the assembled crowd something to think about, discuss strategy, and figure out how to do social well.
A few major themes flowed from one speaker to the next:
- Show your mission in your message, Peter Drury from Splash told the crowd. “Don’t just be a nonprofit. Be a ‘For Impact’ organization.”
- Making your content relevant to your audience can lead to more attention. Hootsuite’s “A Game of Social Thrones” used humor to compare their service to the popular show “Game of Thrones.” It’s a social media tactic so popular even the White House has followed (hoot) suit.
- We discovered that email isn’t dead from Tracy Warren, Regional Development at Constant Contact. Her best advice: be yourself because people want to know you, the people behind the causes. While doing social media for your job puts a screen between you and your audience, being more intentionally human breaks down that screen barrier.
Colin Downey, Director of Communications for the Red Cross, weaved all these themes together in his excellent presentation on “Storytelling in Sensitive Situations”. As he spoke the room noticeably quieted down and became serious. He was talking about our backyard after all: the lessons from the Snohomish County Oso landslide.
Being human, relevant, and mission-driven during a crisis sounds almost impossible. But the Red Cross has found a way to do this and much more. How do they do it? They empower all of their staff and thousands of volunteers to participate on social in authentic ways.
Even before the advent of social media, the Red Cross’ PR policy had clear guidelines allowing volunteers, board and staff to talk to the media as long as they focus on the specific tasks they are doing. So, for example, if you are making sandwiches for people who have been displaced, then you can talk about those specifics. If someone asks you why you volunteer with Red Cross you answer for yourself. If you are staff and you are coordinating donations you focus on what you know.
The Red Cross mobilizes people fast and by having clear and easy to follow guidelines everyone who helps the organization can quickly become a point of contact for traditional or social media. This makes their social media reach wider and deeper than if they restricted their people’s ability to be open about what they are doing.
Colin’s heart and compassion really resonated with the audience. Everyone I spoke to during the next break was moved by the sheer power and humanity of his work at the Red Cross. Everybody who works for a mission-driven nonprofit wants to impact the people they serve. The Red Cross is clearly a social media role model to keep in mind, and Colin Downey a thought leader to follow.
If you want to know more about the conference and take a look at the slide decks from all the speakers, check out the Storify of the April 28, 2014 SM4NP Seattle event here.